ISIS, an Islamic extremist rebel group, has gained traction as reports of young men and women enlisting in the would-be worldwide caliphate have surfaced. In a new study commissioned by Google Ideas and published by the Brookings Institution, supporters of ISIS are operating at least 46,000 Twitter accounts.
The more accurate number could be as high as 70,000, according to the study, which highlights the challenge governments have when facing extremists incorporating social networks into their group's doctrine.
With operations in eastern Libya, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and other areas of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, ISIS and its social media presence provide a “demographic snapshot” of who is in allegiance to the terrorist organization.
The Washington, D.C., think tank was brought in by Google and discovered that much of ISIS’ activity on Twitter is funneled through a group of 500 to 2,000 highly active accounts. By sending tweets in concentrated bursts, these multiple accounts supportive of ISIS had an average of 1,000 followers each. This alarming statistic is considered much more than most average Twitter users.
Brookings Institution recommended that Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies, along with the U.S. government, work together to devise a tactical response to extremism online. Twitter, which recently created new rules for data protection, may be able to regulate speech on its platform without government oversight. ABC News recently reported that Twitter suspended 2,000 ISIS accounts last week alone.
J.M. Berger and technologist Jonathon Morgan, who wrote the Brookings Institution academic report, said, “While we do not believe that any mainstream social media platform wishes to see its services used to further acts of horrific violence, we also suspect some would rather not be bothered with the challenge of crafting a broad and coherent response to the issue.”
Twitter’s CEO, co-founder, and other professional employees have all been threatened by ISIS over the company’s effort to block ISIS-related accounts.
With shocking images such as ISIS destroying Assyrian works of art or graphic video of journalists being beheaded, ISIS has been posting the content to Google’s YouTube video service in addition to Twitter.
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